Showing posts from May, 2016

The Voices of Student Poets

Last Friday I had the special treat of working with Year 7 poets from Brighton Primary School in Adelaide. During the day we closely examined a range of poetic structures and devices and applied them to our writing of poetry.
With one group I introduced Suzanna Marshak’s  powerful book ‘I Am The Ocean’ to alert these enthusiastic poets to the potential power of writing through a mask and using personification. Another group looked at personification through their connection to things in the world around them. 

Using the poem, ‘I Am These Things And More’ as a model.  Students were challenged to think about these important connections. A particular focus of the writing was to try to incorporate effective use of repetition, line breaks, simile and white space in their composed pieces.
These young poets talked in groups and identified their targets for personification. They rehearsed their opening lines. They rechecked the list of craft moves available to them and then they set about writin…

Writing Mentor Magic

You are never alone out there…
As teachers of writing we are surrounded by lots of authors we trust, respect and who are readily available to assist in the important task of developing young writers. When we allow these authors to become mentors, the sharing we do affords students the opportunity to acquire the craft of writing through exposure to rich literary models
We must willingly and mindfully, the lessons learned from our trusted mentors. Encourage students to investigate specific aspects of the work of these mentors. Encourage them to imitate the style of these authors. In time we should guide our students towards identifying favourite authors of their own. The more we focus on the work of these mentors, the more we come to realize the critical importance the role of reading plays in the development of writing. We begin to read in a distinctly different way. We begin to read like writers. If we choose texts carefully, we enable the writing of others to influence us. Our writing k…

Making Sense of Teaching With Mentor Texts

It all starts with selecting and sharing powerful texts and simply letting kids enjoy them. Spread the joy of reading great words and what possibilities they spark in the mind of the reader. Reading a text for enjoyment before you move to examining craft increases the likelihood of the text impacting on a student’s writing. When the student knows the text,  it releases their cognitive energy more specifically to that aspect of the text under examination.
Think of mentor texts as a term that essentially means –models, exemplars or examples. ‘Mentor texts’ is not something we do within a writing program for its own sake. It is not an entity in itself. It is an integral part of learning how to become a better writer. It requires the ability to read like a writer in order to be able to see the potential in a text to provide a model worth following or adopting.

We are looking for writing we want our students to emulate. Our lens must be purpose and craft. So we need to select texts where we …

Conferring: Focusing On The Writer’s Notebook

To emphasize the importance of the writer’s notebook as a resource we must confer with students about the kinds of entries they are collecting in this special space and how they view the purpose of such entries.

Such conversations with students can focus on a range of considerations:

How are you, as a writer, extending initial entries and ideas?
Are you rereading older entries to discover new topics for writing?
How are you dealing with the challenge of the blank page and getting their words to spill onto the page?
Are you using close observations to inform your writing ideas?
How are you using your senses to inform your notebook entries?
What are you doing well at present?
How do find new ideas? Where do you look?
Tell me something new you would like to try in your notebook
What could you add to your notebook following observation of other writer’s notebooks?
Are you using your reading to inform the writing you do?
Do you occasionally lift a line from a piece and place it at the top of a new pag…

Conferring With Writers To Grow Accountability

It is often tempting to keep presenting a new skill to student writers each time we confer. Such action is often driven by a desire to provide the writer with as much information as possible, as quickly as possible. However, rushing through a range of strategies cam prove counterproductive as students can become overwhelmed and our teaching loses its effectiveness. If we slow down and teach a few skills well, the learning tends to go deeper. It sticks.
For this reason, it is a good idea to begin a new writing conference by revisiting matters previously covered in earlier conversations. This allows the student to demonstrate how they have addressed matters previously discussed and embeds the strategy more thoroughly in the mind of the developing writer. The student is thus provided with an opportunity to demonstrate how they have applied the strategy in their writing, seek further support and celebrate their success. There is also an implied accountability in this approach.
When we retu…